A Dummies guide to the Differences between Denominations

I remember asking my dad, while heading home from a family holiday, what the difference between Anglicans (my father is an ordained priest) and Methodists were. His answer to his seven year old son was simple enough, “worship style”; and then, slightly tongue in cheek/slightly pained, he added that he’d still love me if one day I became a Methodist.

I’ve never really stopped asking that question often turning it over in my mind. It’s been thirty years and now my kids are at that age where they’re starting to ask the same questions. Below is my answer, well three answers, simple enough I hope, and yes, I’d still love them if one day they became Anglicans:

The Differences like two Petrol Stations

Take two petrol stations, an Engen and a Shell. Petrol is highly regulated in South Africa so there’s little difference in the petrol itself. Their logo may be different but they’re really both the same.

At their best denominations ought to be like petrol stations: Different logos outside, same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Shops

Take two shops, a Makro and a Woolworths. They both sell food and clothing but in entirely different ways. Different products on their shelves, different shoppers at their tills.

Denominational differences like worship, liturgy and paint on the wall outside doesn’t separate us when it’s the same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Books

Take two books, the Bible and 17 Steps to Healthy Living. The Bible contains the words of eternal life, 17 Steps for Healthy Living is here today and will blow away tomorrow.

Some churches preach God’s Word, a Word which can save a sinner to salvation; other’s preach man’s mind, a mind which will drive a sinner to damnation. This isn’t just a denominational consideration – it’s not like Baptists and Presbyterians are safe and Anglicans and Methodists are problematic – this is a church by church, preacher by preacher test.

“What I’m trying to say my child is don’t be a Baptist and go to hell, an Anglican condemned to the abyss; be a God fearing Bible believing Christian who goes to church bent on glorifying God by proclaiming His Word and bringing honour to His name by serving Him and His people.”


How much should you know before you’re ready to be Baptised?

Believer's Baptism, Baptism, Baptist, Pharasitic fences, Anglican, John MacArthur, Fundamentals of the Faith, Matthias Media, Just For Starters, Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Andre Broodryk, Benoni Baptist Church, Doug Forsyth, Weltevreden Chapel, Peter Sammons, Germiston Baptist Church

This image is from one of my faverite posts. Click image to link to the post.

I’m principally swayed that Believer Baptism must tailgate salvation; closely. If the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27 – 40) could hear the Gospel, internalise it and respond to it in what appears to be a very short span of time then I wouldn’t want to put Pharasitic fences in the way of any man.

I’m principally swayed that Believer Baptism must tailgate salvation; as closely as possible. Let’s face it: the Ethiopian eunuch was clearly well versed in Scripture (Acts 8:28) and a devote man (Acts 8:27) which is not all that common nowadays. There’s a need for rudimentary teaching before dunking.

So I put together a training course for Crystal Park Baptist Church; the bare boned basics. Who is God? Who is Man? Who is Christ? and Where to from Here?

“There’s a need for rudimentary teaching before dunking.”

Writing course content is a learning curve. On the first pass I’ve realised that I must shorten the sections if I want to cover everything in 1 hour. I need to reduce the number of Scriptures so as to provide an adequate platform to probe the key passages. I must include additional verses at the end of each page so that Psalm 1:2 students can go away immerse [sic] themselves. Oh, lesson 1 needs to focus more on the holiness of God so the stage is set for the next three lessons which really amount to the Gospel.

Anyway here are the drafts that I’ve created so far:

Lesson 1: Who is God?

Lesson 2: Who is Man?

Lesson 3: Who is Jesus Christ?

Lesson 4: Where to from Here?

I used John MacArthur’s Fundamentals of the Faith: 13 Lessons to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ, Matthias Media’s Just For Starters and Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology for the input and consulted with Andre Broodryk from Benoni Baptist Church, Doug Forsyth from Weltevreden Chapel and Peter Sammons from Germiston Baptist Church.

I’d value input, especially around how to succinctly articulate these core Christian truths.

High, low, everywhere we go

Me, in kinda of a dress with † Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban's Cathedral in Pretoria.

At one stage the pungent smell of the incense made me want to vomit. 6 year olds have little appreciation for tradition. Me, in kinda of a dress (I know, I know), with Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Click image to enlarge.

I started out life as an Anglican. Here’s the proof, the kid in the front of the procession, the Boat Boy or junior Acolyte, is me. This is a fond memory of a wedding service held at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Nostalgia.

The nice thing about being Anglican is you have a sense of belonging. It’s a massive communion and there’re people all over the place. You can go to any city, town or village, even Pofadder, and there will be one or two Anglican churches to pick from.

There’re two vibrant and growing Christian blogging communities in South Africa and I’ve realised that this time I’m the outsider looking in. I feel like I’m back at school wishing I was “down” with the cool kids. Basically the Methodists (Jenny, Dion, Pete et al.) and the Emergents (Steve (is this a fair categorisation? I know you’re Orthodox but you seem to be so many things to so many people), Graeme, Roger et al.) own the space… and I think I know why.

They’re often times so much more missionally focused than folk like me. And because the internet is really just a big idea megaphone it’s the perfect vehicle for missionally geared minds to have something to say. They dominate the conversation because of early adoption and saturated use. The emergents appeal to the Post-Post-Modern world and the Methodist are, well, they are… Armenians [sic] :).

Why is this an issue for me? Well in some ways it’s not. I’ve enjoyed the dialogue with Christians that are not exactly cut out of the same mould as me. Although, on the other hand I’m feeling a bit isolated. For now, Psalm 119 nicely summerises a good place to kick Christian friendships and interaction off, online or not,

63 I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.

Want to hear the verse in context? Psalm 107 – 121
What is this about?

Three things bashed together tonight to get me to this place. Firstly I commented in my About section about a person I didn’t want to associate with online. Secondly I was reminded of my roots by a passerby. Lastly I’ve been constantly turning over a conversation I had with Jenny and Thomas regarding a distinctive I hold to (it wasn’t vestry shelves).

Am I being overly sensitive? Is the depth of the various Christian communities on the web actually a whole lot more superficial than that? Would like to know your opinion. Oh, btw, I have a new job which is taking up a whole lot of my time which is why I’ve been less active of late. Can’t see myself writting more than once a week for the foreseeable future.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

Pope Benedict XVI

The rallying cry of the reformation, By Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone and glory to God alone ring in my ears as I consider this debate. Picture by Fabio Pozzebom. Click image to enlarge.

The Pope’s offered an olive branch to conservative elements within the Episcopal Church. A gesture of Christian harmony? A symbol of ecumenical love? The first step towards a united Church under one single banner?

Make no mistake, Anglicans worldwide are now faced with a tough choice. On the one hand the Episcopal Church in the United States and Canada is apostate. They’ve degenerated into a secular society of psuedo spiritual humanists, vainly seeking a god which panders to their temporal wants and depraved wills. On the other hand the Roman Catholic Church has been positioned as the only remaining bastion of conservative orthodox Christian doctrine.

It’s no real choice at all. It’s like choosing between death by crucifixion or death by the rack. It’s a choice between degrees of error rather than a position of faith. That large swaths of the Anglican communion are even engaged in discussions around jumping out of bed with the Episcopals and into bed with the Catholics shows that the lack of discernment emanating out of the Church in America is not isolated to a wacky liberal element but also includes a spiritually dead conservative group.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Leo X infamously sold indulgences to reconstruct St. Peter’s Basilica and against better judgement challenged Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Painting by Raffaello Sanzio, 1483–1520. Click image to enlarge.

There is a reason that the Anglican Church was constituted, and it wasn’t Henry VIII’s infidelities. It was that the Church of Rome in the 16th century stood in theological opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ once delivered to the saints and the need to reform and protest against it was necessary, imperative. And guess what? They still are and we still should (protest that is). The song of works salvation sung by Leo X is the same tune whistled by Benedict XVI.

There has to be as much push back against reuniting with Rome as there is to maintaining a false fellowship with the Episcopal renegades. Anything less is an anathema!

Paul’s words from Ephesians speak well into this,

14 …we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all {aspects} into Him who is the head, {even} Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Want to hear the verse in context? Ephesians 4
What is this about?

Where do you stand? Not sure what I’m talking about? Read here and here for examples.

Of interesting things outside

Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

The beautiful little Anglican church in Belvidere, Holy Trinity, is surrounded by tranquil gardens and a wrap around grave yard. Click image to enlarge.

Belvidere is beautiful. If you’re ever in the Knysna area you’ve got to stop over. I’d have liked to have spent more time checking out the other touristy activities in the area but as it were we needed to get back to PE and we wanted to go the the Heads as well.

Holy Trinity, the small Anglican church built in Norman style, is situated in Old Belvidere. It was built by Thomas Henry Duthie and as you walk around the property you’ll notice that a large number of Duthies have been buried on the grounds over the years.

I always photograph grave sites and am very interested in the emblems used on head stones. I thought maybe to post a few of the stones and relate them to the article I wrote last week on crosses. I do this mainly for my own benefit as the investigation into the decals and symbols is fascinating.

St John's cross. Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

This is St John’s cross. Saint John of Jerusalem was an order setup to care for the frail and sick. The emblem is used by organizations such as St John Ambulance and the Venerable Order of Saint John. It’s a Pattee cross. Click image to enlarge.

IHS, Christogram, Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

IHS is a common Christogram or monogram that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. “IHS” is derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς), iota-eta-sigma. It’s often associated with Catholic influence. I’d be interested to know what the four leafed emblem surrounding the Christogram represent. I automatically thought of the clover but that’s not quite a rounded edge. Any ideas? Click image to enlarge.

Christogram. Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

Another Christogram. This time inside a circle set in a Latin cross. Click image to enlarge.

Presbyterian cross, Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

I’m assuming that this is probably a Presbyterian cross rather than a Celtic cross. Presbyterianism developed in Scotland and the <a href="http://www.belvidere.co.za/history/index.html&quot; target="_new"Duthie family hailed from there. My dad has a love for Celtic Christianity which certainly influenced Scottish religion and I’ve observed that the Celtic crosses also superimpose a Latin cross over a circle. Wiki sites the circle as having no inherent meaning but rather being an engineering device to ensure that the arms of the heavy stone cross do not collapse. Having listened to much Celtic tradition involving circles I think that’s highly unlikely. Click image to enlarge.

Dollar sign. Belvidere Holy Trinity Anglican Church

These “almost” dollar signs were everywhere. They’re actually just the IHS Christogram superimposed over itself. Click image to enlarge.

All this got me thinking why none of the graves had the letters R.I.P. emblazoned on them. More on that in a future post? All this gloomy talk. Let’s end in victory! 1 Corinthians 15:55 – 57:

55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wanna check out the church:

Been to any must see churches in your area? I’m wanting to go through to Parys soon, anything there I should check out?

Tradition. Part 2 of 5

I really love the coast. Click any image to enlarge.

This morning (ah, this was written last night) the girls woke up at the crack of dawn. Because they have neither an off switch nor volume control it wasn’t long until Liezl and I were up too. Soon after breakfast we headed to the mouth of the vlei where we spent a few hours exploring the caves along the seashore, picking up flat pebbles and playing hop scotch (ok, the hop scotch was mainly played by the kids). In the afternoon we hit the paddle boats and sought high adventure upon open waters after which we feasted on fresh feesh and slap chips (R10 a meal! Yum Yums in Sedgefield, it’s not high cuisine but it’s reel food and it tasted reel good).

I love holidays.

Maybe you remember yesterday’s post (click here)? I was out collecting churches and chatting about tradition and Scripture and all? Anyway we visited St George’s church in Knysna. It’s actually quite amusing, there’s three little churches all lined up in a row, a light brown stone chapel close to the road, a pink plastered blemish on the other side of the street and St George’s nestled in between. The contrast between the colors and styles of these churches made them each stick out like a sore thumb.

Left: The old brown monument. Center: St George’s, the chocolate church of fun. Right: The church of the pink unicorn (for all I know they’re probably a bunch of perfectly nice Baptists. But PINK! Come on folks, who was on the paint selection committee?).

St George’s is a gorgeous dark chocolate stoned beauty. I’m thinking it must be about 83 years old because the cap stone was laid by the Bishop of George, a Right Reverend Henry Bindley Sidwell on September the 12th 1926.

Walking into the church caught me a bit by surprise, the stained glass (something I have always had an interest in) is quite, unusual. Walking in you get what you’d expect, a typical one hundred yearish looking glass but as you look around the church you’re struck by something new, something entirely unexpected, the rest of the glass is quite contemporary, even modern looking. Liezl wasn’t nuts about it but I thought it was quite appropriate, the traditional and the new, merged together into something beautiful.

The top most arched window has the familiar A and Ω Greek characters which call to mind Revelation 1:8 and the deity of Jesus Christ. I was interested in the design of the Alpha character itself and spent some time poking around to see if there was additional meaning associated with it but pulled a blank other than this picture which has the pope in the background (click here) and this image of the burial of Christ (click here).
If there was a circle in it I’d have said that the cross was a Presbyterian device, however I think it’d be more technical to call it a Patonce Cross. In heraldry, the three petals would represent faith, wisdom and chivalry however in the Christian context it more likely that they represent the Trinity. Under the cross two winged and haloed angels (with a pin prick white dot above them) bear a banner, on the left reading, “Let us sing” and on the right reading “unto the Lord”. Psalm 95 triumphantly opens with the chorus, “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”
Below the upper arches are the two main bodies of the stained glass. On the left a woman plays a pipe organ with an angel above her looking down. The caption below reads, “To the glory of God and in undying remembrance of my beloved wife Helen Edien Fox 1974-1949 Endued with the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 4)”. On the right hand side a two angels listen intently. There is a sheet of music lying on the ground. The caption below reads, “My soul doth magnify the LORD and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour This window was given by her husband”. Click image to enlarge.

As I walked up to the sanctuary… maybe I’ll leave that for tonight’s post.

Wanna find St George’s:

Do you enjoy beautiful churches? Why do some churches look one way and others another? Is it all just down to taste or are there other differences? I’ve got some thoughts on this… in tonight’s post.

What should the Church look like?

Click to link to the original article.

I don’t know about you but before I became a Christian I went to church. mmm, that sounds a bit divergent emergent doesn’t it, but it’s true. My father is a rector / pastor / priest of a lovely Spirit filled Anglican church in Port Elizabeth Nelson Mandela Bay called St John the Baptist which I attended as a child (St John the Baptist is a rather unfortunate name for an Anglican church and causes much confusion).

When I was old enough to make a decision of faith for myself I left the church, disillusioned and with a rather large monkey on my back. Sometime later God, in His infinite mercy, decided to do a work in my life and effectually called me to Himself, this time worshiping with a Baptistish bunch of Fundamental Dispensational Calvinists in Johannesburg (I know, I know, I need a shorter description… and that was only the half of it, I was going to include pre-trib pre-mil…).

Click to link to the original article.

Tonight when I logged onto the internet I had every intention of posting something but I found myself strapped for ideas. What to do, what to do? Well, pick on an easy target of course and who better than the Anglicans / Episcopalians / COE, they’re practically a rabbit in hunting season with a big bulls eye drawn on it at the moment.

Now, what has Gene Robinson gaffed lately? I scanned the net, found his last verbal triad of heretical sacrilege and was suitably appalled… but… nothing, I just didn’t feel “inspired”. I really didn’t want to write on this, it was so… so… unedifying. So back to the browsing I went.

Who’s next on the list? Desmond naturally. Well he has been up to his usual mischief, sprouting all manner of ecumenical liberal nonsense but I really have a soft spot for the guy and don’t think I’d feel comfortable using him as a theological punch bag. And so back to the ether I headed looking for another target (by the way if you’re looking for a solid source of conservative Anglican thought check out Anglican Mainstream South Africa).

Click to link to the original article.

And that’s when it happened: An inspirational article caught my eye. It’s a happy, feel good tale about a Church of England community in Devon, the Diocese of Exeter.

Basically the Bishop of the area (ok, so they don’t get everything right) presided over a couple of water baptisms as part of a 1,100th anniversary celebration (Good grief, did you catch that? A 1,100th anniversary. That means they’re celebrating a date pre Reformation… Are we allowed to do that :)?).

Can you believe a bunch of clergy, and a bishop no less (he’s the guy with the trendy purple shirt), cassocks and all, waded into a nippy fast flowing river, reminiscent of a John the Baptist scene, and baptized a group of new believers.

Click to link to the original article.

All jokes aside it truly warmed my heart. I love it when a bunch of Christians get it right. There are so many things about this article that make me smile: Believer baptism in a Covenantal semi-Reformed community :). The sight of cassocks wading through water :). The fact that they had gum boot on under their robes :). 500 on lookers observing this beautiful symbol of dying and rising with Christ :). The list goes on and on.

Luke Salkeld, who wrote this story, captured in photos and words a depiction of something which has been largely absent in the media portrayal of the Church of late. ACTION! Involvement, community, belonging, interaction, doing.

As the divergent church attacks, often with feints and parries painting the Church as a fat sloth hiding within the four walls of a old outdated Gothic relic, the Church of God, the real Church needs to rise out of it’s slumber and engage. Engage a world which is broken and shackled. Preach the Gospel to the lost. Be seen, be doing. Noses in hymnals once a week on Sundays behind closed doors just doesn’t cut it.

Now I know a living Church is more than a dip in the Jordan every 1,100 years but this is a start. I’m looking forward to photos of this same community working in orphanages, soup kitchens and handing out tracts in parks in the future. Sometimes when I look on the Church I have difficulty separating the forest from the trees but tonight I’m smiling in agreement with Christ’s vision of His bride from Revelation 19:7 – 10:

7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”
8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright {and} clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ ” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.”
10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Got any happy comments about the believers that you worship with?